[countries: afghanistan]

Shakeela Naz
Mastana.netMORAD E DIL
Fawad Ramiz

Kandahar Prince

There are 192 countries in the world. Today begins my alphabetical musical journey through all of them. Some, like the United States and the United Kingdom, will be overwhelming in their wealth of material. For others, like Kiribati, it may be hard to find anything at all. Nevertheless, here we go.

It’s fitting that we begin with Afghanistan, which is more or less in the middle of the vast landmass that is Eurasiafrica and has long been a global crossroads. It’s fitting, too, that the music has a rhythm that throws us off balance. Indeed, it’s not just the rhythm: the music itself is a disorienting cross between Greek bouzouki music and North Indian light classical, tied together with the plinky-plinky sound of Central Asia. The merging of Greek, Persian, Central Asian and Indian influence is more or less the story of Afghanistan in a nutshell.

“Morad e Dil,” by Fawad Ramiz, has more of a pop sound to it, but still that whirling rhythm that sounds like it’s from everywhere: the Balkans, North Africa, Pakistan.

The last track, “Muslims 4 Life,” is by the rapper Kandahar Prince, aka Hamid from Upstate, who likes to name-check Schenectady from time to time. I acknowledge that he’s not very good, and one could quibble about whether a rap in English by someone living in Schenectady is genuinely the music of Afghanistan. But as we set out on a musical journey around the world, it’s good to remember that borders are fictions and that cultures are malleable and endlessly overlaid and intermixed — as they have been in Afghanistan since the dawn of time.

I am grateful to Mastana.net for its vast collection of Afghani music, which is provided in an easy-to-browse interface that I thoroughly recommend checking out.